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Proactively re-zoning areas.

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  • Proactively re-zoning areas.

    What are everyone's thoughts on the viability of the City proactively rezoning certain areas of the City for higher density. I have noticed that almost all the buildings surrounding 105 st, north of 97th Ave have had to apply for DC for higher density.
    Is it a good idea? What am I missing, because it seems certain areas that should be zoned for any use are being highly restricted by existing zoning and this of course delays development.

  • #2
    I think to a degree this is why ARPs are being done in areas such as Downtown North Edge. However, I'm not one to comment on the ins and outs of city zoning
    LA today, Athens tomorrow. I miss E-town.


    • #3
      I wish we had a "hotel circle", auto-mile or auto circle, etc. With a large hotel circle zone - special attention could be focused on the provision of appropriate services to the location. Appropriate bus service, security, etc. Would be particularly nice and would create memorable stays, if it (200-acres or so) were situated on the edge of the river valley somewhere. (The builders of the McDonald Hotel sure had it right!)


      • #4
        Re: Proactively re-zoning areas.

        Originally posted by DanC
        What are everyone's thoughts on the viability of the City proactively rezoning certain areas of the City for higher density. I have noticed that almost all the buildings surrounding 105 st, north of 97th Ave have had to apply for DC for higher density.
        Is it a good idea? What am I missing, because it seems certain areas that should be zoned for any use are being highly restricted by existing zoning and this of course delays development.

        much of the downtown zoning is out of date and not congruent with current growth patterns and development needs. DC's are good for the city as they are highly controlled, but a pain for developers to have to turn to, however in the end the development that results is usually of higher quality, has more density, and more height....

        but yes, we need to review much of the zoning...and more importantly density bonusing.



        • #5
          Excellent idea. It would be a very inexpensive way to encourage developers to build housing where it is needed. The area around the U of A and near LRT stops are good candidates.


          • #6
            To arbitrarily run around changing zoning without vision or consultation with the gatekeepers of a community assumes that there are no potential costs to density or to bad developments and that people who live in neighbourhoods do not have an understanding of community building. While density is a better option than constant new green field developments, it has serious pitfalls if it is not done with thought to the implications. We, as a city, have not done enough work on what distinguishes a good development from a poor development, how major changes affect the ability of a community to sustain itself. Density like all other potentially good things must be balanced with social capacities and infrastructure capaciities. A developer may invest in an area and then sell all his condos but he is not the person who will have to live with the mistakes of size and placement or displacement. An example of this is downtown Edmonton. It has taken more than 25 years to arrive at the start of a revitalization. The building frenzy of the 1970s destroyed the character of downtown and displaced the things that could have helped to bring people back to downtown. Since then, endless plans and millions of dollars have been spent trying to regain what we had - a vibrant, interesting and diverse downtown.

            There is no overarching good that can be decided from some central place. A city is a composition of cells or communities. Each community has a core of people who have that community's best interests at heart and are committed to their place. An important part of a democracy is the consultation process that brings out all perspectives of a plan. Sometimes, times change and a zoning regime does not meet the needs of a community. Othertimes, that zoning was there to protect the integrity of a community, to defend its quality of life or long term economy. A development must prove that it is a better option than what already exists.

            Density is not necessarily high rises. Density can be introduced at a lower scale that does not threaten and can be absorbed by the community. I believe that most mature communities have more planning knowledge, understanding of community building and commitment to the greater good than the general development community. There is no good reason to allow people with a strong financial self-interest, that carry no long term personal implications, to dominate. In a boom period we do not have to beg for developments. This is the time that we can set standards. The revitalization of downtown depends very much on how much people want to be there. If it does not suit human beings, they may not come or if they do, they will abandon an unlivable space. They did that in the 1980s. People won't come downtown because they suddenly find a big road to get there or find parking or even find a 30th flr. space looking directly into someone else's 30th flr. space. The people you want downtown will come if it improves their lives.

            Also, with density that creates anonymous and disconnected storage units for singles and couples, comes the need for supports. It is not free. Transportation that is not car oriented (roads and housing density are not compatible), more social and recreational space, more services that manage waste removal, social order etc. are some of the supports that must come with more intense and less divers community. For instance, that mega-project at Heritage will be a colossal failure without the LRT.

            Much more important than density, defined by large looming buildings, is diversity of uses and resident ages, coupled with a reasonably dense land use. I grew up in Oliver before the high rises. It was a community with 3 schools, 5 churches, 2 synagogues, 2 hospitals, a public swimming pool, a private tennis & sports club, an industrial area and a shopping strip that serviced the immediate needs of the community. For everything else, we went downtown. It was a mixed use community with apartments, houses and townhouses. It was also a densely populated neighbourhood even by its current standards. Most of the original buildings had been erected at a time when the City taxed land, not buildings or improvements. Land was not wasted. In fact, there were numerous lots that had a house at the front and one at the back. This housed two generations of a family. The smaller house at the back was either a starter home for one of the married children or a retirement home for empty nest grandparents. Some were rented out. This was a place that brought 3 or more generations together. Most importantly, it allowed the community to create relationships through the institutions and public places and to defend itself by keeping its population within the community. No long commutes, no undefended houses, no anonymous neighbours.

            Another example of density and "development at any cost" gone bad is the slum east of 34 St., north and south of 118th Avenue. Although the City calls this fiasco, medium density, it overwhelmed a community with a limited ability to absorb the newcomers. True, the recession of the 1990s had a lot to do with the concentrated poverty but we should be planning for the survival of a community in good and bad times. There will not always be a boom in Edmonton.

            In summary, we need a definition, a set of standards and a whole lot of discussion on the meaning and design of "Smart Growth" or Density".


            • #7
              I don't think anyone is suggesting that redevelopment planning should be undertaken without vision and without community consultation. I look at proactive rezoning as a part of a process that includes communities in coming up with a vision, then making the changes to allow developers to get on with the job of making it happen when the economics are favorable. It is a way of letting developers know what is and is not wanted, rather than having them guess at what they can get away with.
              That said, I don't think it's reasonable to expect communities to be entirely satisfied with the results. There is "NIMBY and BANANA" type opposition to development everywhere, and the wants of communities and the needs of the city as a whole are not always the same. I think it is better that these fights be had and compromises made before there is a proposal on the table rather than after.


              • #8
                Actually, all the City needs to do is provide Development Officers with the powers to grant variances for height and density. As it stands today, Development Officers cannot grant a variance on these two components, except where permitted under certain zoning bylaws.

                All this would require is an amendment to some of the existing zoning regulations and / or overlays. Of course, the D.O. would require a well-development statutory plan and other supplementary plans / policies to help make a qualified decision in those types of circumstances.

                By the way, the City can't just decide to rezone someones land at their own free will.


                • #9
                  /\ exactly.
                  President and CEO - Airshow.